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March 2011



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Archive for March 23rd, 2011


We trawl the world’s journals so you don’t have to:

Raising healthy children (Child Development).

Special Section on Work Engagement (European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology).

Reviews on addiction (Neuron). open access until March 31

Positive Youth Psychology (The Journal of Positive Psychology).

Cardiovascular Reactivity at a Crossroads: Where are we now? (Biological Psychology).

Health promotion interventions (Psychology and Health).

National Identity and Ingroup–Outgroup Attitudes in Children: The Role of Socio-Historical Settings (European Journal of Developmental Psychology).

Metacognitive disturbances amongst individuals with complex mental health problems: Psychopathology and treatment (Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice). open access




By David McCracken, MA, LPC
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on March 17, 2011

Various kinds of psychotherapy are increasingly available via new technologies, but little is known about the effectiveness of these novel delivery systems. Now, two psychologists have launched a program using online videoconferencing to help make treatment available to people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) who might not otherwise have access to psychological help.

Drs. James Herbert and Evan Forman of Drexel University have designed a program that treats individuals with OCD through Skype,  a computer software application that allows users to make voice calls and videoconference over the Internet.

According to the Drexel researchers, programs like Skype could revolutionize how therapy is provided, particularly in cases in which individuals need highly specialized mental health treatment, as is the case with OCD.

Read in Full:



By David McCracken, MA, LPC
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on March 19, 2011

The next time you’re nervously prepping for an exam or a crucial job interview, consider this: taking a break to exercise may help you stay calm and focused as you complete your big task.

Exercise is an effective short-term treatment for anxiety, said Jonathan Abramowitz, Ph.D., director of the Anxiety and Stress Disorders Clinic at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

In fact, research suggests that — at least for temporary anxiety — exercise can be just as effective a coping tool as medication or psychotherapy, he said.

Although we often think of it negatively, anxiety is a normal emotion, Abramowitz said. It evolved in our ancestors as a response to danger, such as a nearby predator. When you perceive a threat, you begin sweating, your heart rate increases and your breathing accelerates — the “fight or flight” response.

Of course, many modern dangers – such as a bad grade or an unsatisfactory job interview – can’t be thwarted by fighting or fleeing. In those cases, you may be left with only the unpleasant effects of anxiety, such as sweaty palms and a pounding heart.

Exercise can help you manage anxiety by distracting you from your worries and giving you a feeling of accomplishment, Abramowitz said. It also causes your body to release endorphins, pain-relieving chemicals that suffuse you with feelings of well-being.

Among the tips he offers for helping to relieve anxiety:

  • *When you start a new exercise routine, set goals that are reasonable for your ability. You’re less likely to injure yourself — and thus cause yourself additional distress — if you break your sessions into small, frequent increments.

  • *How much exercise does it take to manage anxiety? That depends, Abramowitz said. If you’re already in good physical condition, try aiming for thirty minutes of exercise, three to five days a week. But generally, you’ll need to exercise just long enough to have a true break from your normal environment.


Read More … http://psychcentral.com/news/2011/03/19/exercise-lessens-anxiety-in-the-short-run/24506.html


Article Date: 19 Mar 2011 – 0:00 PDT

The psychological impact of natural disasters such as the Japan earthquake can be revealed in the way people inherently respond to unpredictable situations, according to a psychology expert at Queen Mary, University of London.

Dr Magda Osman, Psychology Lecturer at Queen Mary, University of London, and author of Controlling Uncertainty: Decision-making and Learning in Complex Worlds, said the disaster had a devastating immediate effect on tens of thousands of people in Japan but the true psychological impact will be felt “for some time to come”.

“A disaster like the Japan earthquake has such wide-ranging implications, especially on the psychological well-being of those affected,” Dr Osman said.

“After a disaster, typically small communities become incredibly co-operative and pull together to help each other and start the rebuilding process. There’s an immediate response where people start to take control of the situation, begin to deal with it and assess and respond to the devastation around them.


“The problem is that we aren’t very good at calculating the long-term effects of disasters. After about two months of re-building and cleaning up we tend to experience a second major slump when we realise the full severity of the situation in the longer term. This is what we need to be wary of because this triggers severe depression.”

Dr Osman, who works in Queen Mary’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, said as soon as there is a disaster, there is often a rapid increase of mental health problems in the people who have been affected. This is because natural disasters threaten our sense of control in the world.

“Our sense of control is like a mental engine, it’s like an adaptive driving force that helps us stay motivated. When bad, unpredictable events happen we don’t feel we have any effect over anything and this is when we start to lose self esteem,” she said.

People who live in areas which are prone to disasters such as in Japan are often prepared through simulation exercises. The importance of this is not only to rehearse what to do in the event of a disaster, but also to increase our sense of control over the situation. This is can be a powerful way to create resilience, according to Dr Osman.

The lab experiments Dr Osman has conducted show that even when a situation is unpredictable and seems to be spiralling out of control, and when people are encouraged to believe they have control over the situation, they tend to be better able to exert control. She said: “Ironically, the illusion of control can actually help to generate a real sense of control.”

Read in Full:


Related Articles

Please consider supporting the emergency relief efforts of these organizations.

This Image is free for distribution to create awareness of Japan’s plight. Photo: ©williamcho


ScienceDaily (Mar. 20, 2011) — Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is characterized by unexplained and debilitating tiredness and is associated with headaches, disrupted sleep, muscle pain and difficulty in concentrating. New research published by BioMed Central’s open access journal BMC Medicine shows that ethnicity, depression, lack of exercise or social support, and social difficulties are major risk factors for CFS.

A multi-institute study funded by the Medical Research Council (UK), involving researchers across London and Manchester, looked at data from over 4000 adults living in England. The result of this study showed that, on average, there is a 2.3% risk of suffering from CFS and that risk increases with age by 2% per year from the age of 35. When the researchers compared the occurrence of CFS with medical factors and exercise they found that, while both depression and anxiety were associated with a much higher risk of CFS, moderate exercise halved the risk.

Social status and adversity were also major risk factors along with cultural and ethnic background. The incidence of CFS was highest amongst people who had the most difficulties with housing, finances, or had family problems, but this was balanced by levels of support within the community. Perceived cultural discrimination and insults in the workplace, or in society, along with racial and religious discrimination, were also much higher for CFS sufferers. Overall people with Pakistani, Indian or Black Caribbean backgrounds had a greater risk of CFS than the white population.

Professor Bhui from Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary, University of London said, “Earlier studies, based on attendance at clinics, indicated that CFS is a disease of white, middle class people. Our results show that CFS is more common amongst the physically inactive, those with social difficulties and with poor social support, and ethnic minorities, especially in the Pakistani group studied, and that they are silently suffering.”

Journal Reference:

  1. Kamaldeep S Bhui, Sokratis Dinos, Deborah Ashby, James Nazroo, Simon Wessely, and Peter D White. Chronic fatigue syndrome in an ethnically diverse population: the influence of psychosocial adversity and physical inactivity. BMC Medicine, 2011; 9: 26 DOI: 10.1186/1741-7015-9-26

Hoping for a Happy Ending

Check out Christine’s book!
Hope for a Happy Ending: A Journalist’s
Story of Depression, Bipolar and Alcoholism
Christine Stapleton


By Christine Stapleton

Audrey Gruss has no problem talking about her mother’s depression — even to a large audience in a ballroom at an elegant hotel in Palm Beach, where everything and everyone looks so refined and polished. She speaks candidly – not as a victim but as a daughter. It is her way of taking at swipe at the stigma that still stifles families who need help.

“Hope is a very important word. It is also my mother’s name,”  Audrey told a crowd  at  a fund-raising luncheon at The Breaker’s Hotel last Friday. Thirty five years ago Audrey’s’ mother had a “nervous breakdown.” She went away to a hospital. The doctors told the family very little about their mother’s condition.

“That was an era when cancer was thought to be contagious,” she said. “Patients weren’t told very much.”

Over the years her mother tried medications. “At certain time she was balanced but not totally.” Five years ago, Audrey’s mother died. About the same time Audrey became interested in the work of Dr. Jaak Panksepp, an Estonian born psychologist and neuroscientist who coined the term “affective neuroscience” – the study of the neural mechanisms of emotion.

To anyone who has depression, affective neuroscience is common sense. Of course emotions are related to activity in our brains. We might not be able to tell you how emotions affect our hypothalamus,  cingulate cortex and hippocampi but we know there is something going on up there and it is not good.

Read in Full:



By Psych Central News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on March 22, 2011

When it comes to physical exertion and sex, every once in a while may not be such a good thing. New research suggests a small but significant risk of heart attack or cardiac arrest associated with physical and sexual activity when these are done only occasionally.

The researchers caution, however, that the absolute risk is small amongst the general population. It is even further reduced among people who have high levels of regular physical activity (such as exercise).

Acute cardiac events such as heart attacks are a major cause of illness and death. It is estimated that as many as a million acute myocardial infarctions (heart attacks) and 300,000 cardiac arrests occurring in the United States each year.

“Regular physical activity has been identified as strongly associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and related mortality. Despite the well-established benefits of regular physical activity, anecdotal evidence has suggested that physical activity, as well as other acute exposures, such as sexual activity and psychological stress, can act as triggers of acute cardiac events,” the authors write.

Issa J. Dahabreh, M.D., of Tufts Medical Center, and Jessica K. Paulus, Sc.D., of Tufts University, conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to examine the association between episodic physical activity and sexual activity and acute cardiac events and also the interaction of regular physical activity levels with the triggering effect of these exposures. The researchers identified 14 studies that met criteria for inclusion in the analysis.

The researchers found that overall, the studies suggested an association (3.5 times increased risk) between episodic physical activity and heart attack.

The researchers also found evidence of an increase in the risk of sudden cardiac death (SCD) triggered by episodic physical exertion.

Read in Full:


Image: Book “My Lobotomy” by Howard Dully and Charles Fleming is an autobiography about Howard Dully, a man who was lobotomized by the infamous Dr. Walter Freeman in 1960, at the age of twelve.


By Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.
Associate Editor

Today, the word “lobotomy” is rarely mentioned. If it is, it’s usually the butt of a joke.

But in the 20th century, a lobotomy became a legitimate alternative treatment for serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia and severe depression. Physicians even used it to treat chronic or severe pain and backaches. (As you’ll learn below, in some cases, there was no compelling reason for the surgery at all.) There’s a surprising history of the lobotomy for its use in mental health.

A lobotomy wasn’t some primitive procedure of the early 1900s. In fact, an article in Wired magazine states that lobotomies were performed “well into the 1980s” in the “United States, Britain, Scandinavia and several western European countries.”

The Beginning

In 1935, Portuguese neurologist Antonio Egas Moniz performed a brain operation he called “leucotomy” in a Lisbon hospital. This was the first-ever modern leucotomy to treat mental illness, which involved drilling holes in his patient’s skull to access the brain. For this work, Moniz received the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1949.

The idea that mental health could be improved by psychosurgery originated from Swiss neurologist Gottlieb Burckhardt. He operated on six patients with schizophrenia and reported a 50 percent success rate, meaning the patients appeared to calm down. Interestingly, Burckhardt’s colleagues harshly criticized his work at the time.

The Lobotomy in America

In 1936, psychiatrist Walter Freeman and another neurosurgeon performed the first U.S. prefrontal lobotomy on a Kansas housewife. (Freeman renamed it “lobotomy.”)

Freeman believed that an overload of emotions led to mental illness and “that cutting certain nerves in the brain could eliminate excess emotion and stabilize a personality,” according to a National Public Radio article.

He wanted to find a more efficient way to perform the procedure without drilling into a person’s head like Moniz did. So he created the 10-minute transorbital lobotomy (known as the “ice-pick” lobotomy), which was first performed at his Washington, D.C. office on January 17, 1946.

(Freeman would go on to perform about 2,500 lobotomies. Known as a showman, he once performed 25 lobotomies in one day. To shock his audiences, he also liked to insert picks in both eyes simultaneously.)

According to the NPR article, the procedure went as follows:

“As those who watched the procedure described it, a patient would be rendered unconscious by electroshock. Freeman would then take a sharp ice pick-like instrument, insert it above the patient’s eyeball through the orbit of the eye, into the frontal lobes of the brain, moving the instrument back and forth. Then he would do the same thing on the other side of the face.”

Freeman’s ice-pick lobotomy became wildly popular. The main reason is that people were desperate for treatments for serious mental illness. This was a time before antipsychotic medication, and mental asylums were overcrowded, Dr. Elliot Valenstein, author of Great and Desperate Cures, which recounts the history of lobotomies, told NPR.

“There were some very unpleasant results, very tragic results and some excellent results and a lot in between,” he said.

Lobotomies weren’t just for adults either. One of the youngest patients was a 12-year-old boy! NPR interviewed Howard Dully in 2006 at the age of 56. At the time, he was working as a bus driver.

Read in Full: http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2011/03/21/the-surprising-history-of-the-lobotomy/